(Group trip to Kanvashram-4 )
The GMVN guesthouse at Kanvashram faces the east and has two exit points – one towards the north, another to the south. The waterfall and the small barrage at river Malini are reached from the northern gate; the southern gate, much less used, takes one to a nature trail, and if you are slightly adventurous, to a steep and slippery height nearby. The GMVN caretaker discouraged us, for, he believed the hillock would take us to a place used by wild elephants for their rest-ground. Why would a pachyderm want to tire itself to the hilltop when it can get enough food and privacy without heaving its heart, I argued and moved on. But I must say the caretaker's words added to the fear element in the pack.
The slant as we began to negotiate was full of loose earth and round pebbles (it must have been a downstream during rainy days). There was some vegetation on the flanks, to provide for a respite and rescue channel. Nisha and Geetanjali moved the fastest while I played a referee — moving back and forth, to keep the herd as much together as possible. As the height ascended, the enthusiasm descended. Sabari and Jaichandran were the first to stop by. They just lighted their peace pipe with nature and took swipe at others who were moving up. I know the withdrawal symptoms when I see them.
I had to call it quits, the trip wasn't for the exclusively might of Geetu and Nisha. I told everyone to call it quits and come down slowly. "Please do announce loudly to the folks “under” you as you step on loose stones. Or watch me," I shouted. Then, in split second, I jumped down from one hard place to another small boulder, so as not to disturb any loose ground, and to show my friends the way along. The amateur lot came down, proverbially, like a ton of boulders, bringing along rounds of dust and tons of pebbles. Laughing and dusting, we all got into the Voyager and bid adieu to Kanvashram. Premji said his prayers once again.
I have an allergy to return journeys, particularly when leaving the hills behind. The van too showed similar signs when it stopped soon after with a flat tyre. While Premji moved on the jack, I helped along by loosening the screws. The new spunky tyre fitted to place, I stepped inside the Voyager. Jai(chandran) greeted me with a rum-cola inside the van for the wages. I accepted the first gladly, then asked for the second... third… and finally asked Sabari if I could pass out. Sabari’s gentle tap on my shoulder made things easier…
I don't know how long I slept but when I woke up, it was dark and we were a few miles from Delhi. I smiled sheepishly when my colleagues went on to tell me what had happened along the route. I was happy that the sleeping hours saved me from Sudipta's tantrums and fixing up the dinner tables for the city-soul adventurists. As the van touched the Delhi border from Seemapuri entrance to the capital, I bid friends goodbye. My house at Dilshad Garden was mere two km from the border and I badly needed a walk to wake up.
I cherished the grateful looks on my colleagues' face as I waved and felt fulfilled.
PS: Like most mornings, I reached the office next day groggy-eyed and froggy-voiced (rum does tricks to my vocal chords). My work station looked as boring as ever. Unhappy. I switched the CPU and pulled out the keyboard to punch in my password. And... phew — a greeting card came out smiling at me. I tore it open anxiously to read out the contents. Though I cannot recall the exact words, the soul of the card read: “Thanks a lot for giving us a time of our lifetime. I had a rocking time and I think the same holds true for others too. Thanks, once again (a few more of such words of gratitude).”
Much as I would want to let it be who had signed that card, I must give the devil its due. That pleasant postcard came from… SUDIPTA CHANDA.